Contributed by n-Space Producer, Brendan McLeod.
A couple of weeks ago, n-Space was invited to participate in Activision’s Comic-Con Preview Event. We were asked to present GoldenEye 007 DS for the first time to the gaming press. We eagerly said yes to the opportunity.
Comic-Con is a huge event. According to the Wikiest of pedias, since 1970, Comic-Con has grown to serve over 100,000 fans each year that journey to San Diego in order to trade merch, meet artists and writers, gawk at collectibles, and – in the latest years – check out video games. Having done a brisk circuit of the floor, I would peg about a third of the booths as video game-focused – most with the quality, if not the scope, of E3 booths.
The Activision event was held off-site at a nightclub in San Diego (the annual location of Comic-Con), which Activision bought out for the night. The venue, called Stingarees (http://www.stingsandiego.com/) is right in the heart of the city, only about six blocks away from the San Diego Convention Center, where Comic-Con is held. The Activision event was not actually an official segment of the Con itself, and in fact was held the night before Comic-Con officially started – last Wednesday evening. Nonetheless, it was a really well-attended shindig, with a lot of the gaming press from Comic-Con showing up to check out what Activision had to offer.
The event was split between two floors. The bottom floor was the show floor, with lots of big monitors and socialization areas, as well as some trade demos – quick levels and lots of trailers. I’m not exactly sure what level of press credentials you needed in order to get in, but it seemed pretty well packed the entire evening. The top floor was the press “lounge,” which had much more in-depth demos with the creators of the games. Most were arranged in the same style – big TVs mounted up so you could walk up and start playing. GoldenEye for the Wii, cleverly, was set up with low-rise couches so that you could really capture the living-room multiplayer feel of the game.
GoldenEye DS was in my hands. I took the two “panda” DS/DSi machines out to San Diego with me and had them charged and ready to go when I got there. Originally, I had been a little dismayed that I wasn’t going to have a big projected presentation available, or even just a small TV, like what we use for demos in the worldbuilding room or the South front conference room. However, I saw immediately once I got there that this would’ve been an unbelieveable mistake – the DS graphics presented side-by-side next to the 360 / PS3 quality material in huge screen format would’ve drawn more derision than interest. Instead, I simply walked up to people and had them watch the game on the Panda’s screens – bigger than a normal DS Lite, although not as big as the Quasimodo that is the DSi XL. This wound up working really well, not only because it let me walk anywhere I needed to be, but it portrayed the game in its best possible light.
Throughout the night, there were lots of hors d’œuvres (yes, I had to look it up) and free drinks flowing all night long. The club itself was very trendy – all of the table top surfaces and counters very crisp and very clean all night long. The staff was pretty impressed with the stuff that we were setting up. It was also really well-lit – it had the right balance of mood and style without making it impossible to move around or find another part of the club. I was also really happy with the noise level all night – at no point did you have to shout to be heard by the person next to you.
In addition to our own GoldenEye 007 DS, the only DS game featured at this event, the heavy hitters for the night were:
● GoldenEye 007. Most of what was shown for Wii was a reiteration of what was demoed at E3, but obviously in a much more accessible venue. Graham Hagmaier, our associate producer on the title, was in charge of showing off parts of the first single player level of the game – the infiltration of the Dam alongside 006, which is strung out in such a way that really does a nice job of showing off core pillars of the game – multiroute gameplay, big “Wow!” Bond-esque moments, a more physical “Daniel Craig” take on Bond, and some clever nostalgic throwbacks. There was also a multiplayer demo set up where anyone could walk up and play with vintage Bond baddies like Jaws and Scaramanga in the Wii’s Archives level.
● Blood Stone 007. Blood Stone’s first level – Athens, ending in the explosions on the road to the Acropolis – was being demo’d (no hands on by the press, I don’t think) in its entirety. This game’s had a rough development history but it looks good and shows off well. Only shown on 360 at this event as Activision wanted to simplify the messaging for this event. GoldenEye = Nintendo, Blood Stone = other consoles,
● Spider-Man: Shattered Dimensions. Quite possibly the other “game of show,” Activision made their announcement of the “Ultimate” symbioted Spidey (as in, the Ultimate Spider-Man universe created and perfected by Brian Michael Bendis and Mark Millar – I happen to be a bit of a fanboy) as the final, fourth world in this new game from Beenox. I got my hands on the game late in the evening and had a blast both sneaking around the Noir universe and tearing up enemies in the Ultimate universe. These guys seem to have a good handle on what they’re doing.
I’ve told a few people this already but my surprise has not yet abated: The very first two journalists who walked into the event were two friends that I’ve known for roughly ten years, who I had not told at all that I’d be in town. Tim Sheehy, from Japanator.com, and Dale North, News Editor for Destructoid.com, walked right up and started commiserating. I immediately jumped into a “lite” version of my spiel, showing them some of the game and getting into the high points of my routine, figuring out which parts are good to improv with and which parts are good to keep as-is. It was a really welcome way to ease into the fun of the event. Dale’s already posted his preview, by the way, where he speaks pretty well of the title.
The “default” demo consisted of the following:
● Tank! – This level recreates Bond’s explosive trip through the streets of St Petersburg at the helm of an experimental tank, an iconic moment from the 1995 film. In the game, Bond contends with enemy tanks, big obstacles, and attack helicopters as he persues the enemy. The level is a great hook, capturing gamers’ attention immediately not only with its spectacular visuals, but also its nostalgic value.
● Archives – Just as the Wii’s Dam level has a great progression of design pillars to show off, I used Archives as the “action” example, Archives shows off some of the game’s best features, like environmental hazards which Bond can use against the enemy, highlighting the brains-over-bullets nature of the thinking man’s shooter. It’s also a great springboard to talk about the full voice cast heard throughout the entire game.
● Severnaya – This was my “covert” example, Surface highlights the reactionary nature of our AI system, as well as the tricks the player can use to subvert it. Distraction events are used well, allowing the player to alter enemy paths. It also has some great opportunities for silent takedowns!
Having done the routine once, it got easier and easier with each presentation. GoldenEye DS, it must be noted, was mentioned by name as an n-Space title in the opening ceremonies for the preview event, so people knew it was on the floor and were looking for it. A lot of people sought me out on their own. Others, I hooked as they were finishing or watching an MP session. A few more were herded my way by the Wii team. Over the course of doors opening at about 6 PM to things winding down around 9:20-9:30, I did about a dozen separate interviews and a handful of scattered other demos for people who were floating around.
So, enough preamble. What were people saying?
● A console experience on a handheld platform – This was one of the game’s big goals when we started out and I’m happy to say that it really came across in the demo. People were really impressed with how full-bodied the game was.
● Smooth, crisp performance – The game looked and ran really smoothly and sharply. The worldbuilders have done an incredible job making some great looking levels and the team overall should be commended for working so hard to make sure framerate is consistently superb.
● It’s authentic GoldenEye – Perhaps the biggest challenge that the team faced was recreating what’s almost universally regarded as one of the best shooters ever made in a way that not only makes sense for 2010 on the DS, but looks, moves, and feels like GoldenEye. The game has seen a massive amount of revision and I’m proud to say that I think it’s paid off.
More than once, an encounter closed with “I didn’t think GoldenEye DS was going to be that big of a deal, but I’m really impressed with what you’ve put together here.”
Overall, the event was a great experience and one that I think reflected really well on GoldenEye for both platforms. I was really happy that Activision took the time to highlight our product and I’m sure that they’ll continue to do so in the future, given the positive feedback that this has generated for our title.